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From the North to the South to the East to the West

Oct 11, 2021

וַֽיהֹוָ֞ה אָמַ֣ר אֶל־אַבְרָ֗ם אַחֲרֵי֙ הִפָּֽרֶד־ל֣וֹט מֵֽעִמּ֔וֹ שָׂ֣א נָ֤א עֵינֶ֙יךָ֙ וּרְאֵ֔ה מִן־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֣ה שָׁ֑ם צָפֹ֥נָה וָנֶ֖גְבָּה וָקֵ֥דְמָה וָיָֽמָּה׃

And Hashem said to Avram, after Lot had parted from him, “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west,

va-a-do-NAI a-MAR el a-v'RAM, a-kha-RAY hi-pa-RED lo LOT may-ee-MO, sa NA ay-NE-kha u-re-EH min ha-ma-KOM a-SHER a-TAH SHAM, tza-FO-na va-ne-G'-ba va-ke-DE-ma va-ya-MAH.

Genesis 13:14

כִּ֧י אֶת־כׇּל־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה רֹאֶ֖ה לְךָ֣ אֶתְּנֶ֑נָּה וּֽלְזַרְעֲךָ֖ עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

for I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever.

ki et-KOL ha-A-retz a-SHER a-TAH ro-EH le-KHA et-TE-ne-Na, u-le-za-r'-a-KHA ad-o-LAM

Genesis 13:15

Once Abraham arrives in the Land of Israel, there are many descriptions of the geography of the land, as if God has to familiarize and orient our Patriarch to his new surroundings.

In ancient times, one was oriented by the rising sun – which is in fact where the word comes from since the sun emerges first from the east, the Orient. In Hebrew, the word for east Kedem means ‘forward’ or ‘front’, and the west is either referred to as yam, meaning ‘sea’ or achor, meaning ‘back’ hence the Mediterranean Sea is known as Yam Ha’acharon, the sea to the rear. Accordingly, south is referred to as teiman, meaning to the ‘right’ whereas the north is called smol, meaning to the ‘left’, as in the description of Abraham’s pursuit of the five kings in Genesis 14:15, “and he pursued them until Hova which was to the left (north) of Damascus.”

It is therefore interesting and significant that Hashem changes the orientation in Genesis 13:14. After Abraham and Lot part ways, God tells our forefather, to “lift up your eyes and look from the place you are to the north, south, east, and west.” Why doesn’t the Torah use the common orientation here of first east to west and only then, north to south?

Clearly, here God is not orienting Abraham, but blessing him. In verse 15, God continues and tells Abraham to look as far as the eye can see, “for all the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever.” See the ancient land that God gave Avraham with our ancient map of Israel.

Watch as Abraham himself explains the significance of the directions to The Israel Bible’s very own Rabbi Tuly Weisz:

Related Names and Places: Abraham

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 13

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